A 43-foot Monaco proved to be the perfect motorhome for this couple’s retirement rig
This article is part of a continuing series looking at motorhomes that have stood the test of time. They may have miles under their wheels, but they can still make dreams come true. Each has earned the right to be called “the classic ride.”
Shopping for a used motorhome may start out with a dream, but the experience can be challenging. At least that is what Jay Tullis and his wife, Jeanie, found when they began the search for their retirement RV. Lifelong motorhome enthusiasts, they had sold their last coach years ago when they were too busy expanding their Utah dog-grooming business to do much traveling. Now they were in the process of selling that same business, and were looking forward to leisurely meandering across the states without a set schedule.
But at “76 years young,” Jay realized they might use the motorhome for a decade or less. The couple concluded that it made more financial sense to buy a preowned motorhome, giving them the option to resell after their travels with a minimum loss of investment. They were leaning toward a Monaco or a Country Coach, having owned and been impressed with those units in the past. Their dream was to find a 38- to 40-foot used motorhome from one of those two manufacturers in excellent condition, equipped with the amenities to make long trips comfortably — and to do it for less than $125,000.
So, the Tullises knew what they wanted … the trouble was actually finding it.
They started scouring online classified ads, and eventually located two motorhomes in California that seemed to fit their requirements. After getting additional photos and talking to the owners, the Tullises felt the coaches were worth pursuing. With high hopes, they scheduled a road trip to take a look. But pictures can be deceptive, and both units were worse than disappointing.
“They were in terrible condition,” Jay said. “Neither one came even close to our expectations.”
They decided they might have to expand their search a bit farther from home, and eventually found a 2002 43-foot Monaco Executive DS in Fort Worth, Texas, that looked promising. It had been used regularly, primarily for shorter trips, and had only 62,000 miles on the odometer. Determined to avoid another nightmare, Jay told the seller he would buy a one-way ticket to look at the unit. If the RV didn’t live up to its billing, the seller would have to pay for Jay’s return ticket home. The trip was still a gamble, but at least this way, Jay wouldn’t be the only one losing.
It was a gamble that paid off.
“There were small issues, like needing new tires, but it was really very close to what we were looking for,” Jay said.
The Executive is powered by a 500-hp Cummins with an Allison 4000 series six-speed transmission, and has an Onan 10-kW diesel generator. It includes two driver’s side slideouts, three roof-mounted air conditioners with heat strips and an Aqua Hot diesel-powered hydronic water and comfort heating system. One of the features Jay appreciated most was the Manabloc water system, which allows the owner to control each water line individually, so that a leaky faucet can be repaired without turning off water to the entire motorhome.
A major selling point of this Monaco was the condition of the interior. The Executives of this period featured Ralph Lauren designs that coordinated soft, neutral colors with muted patterns. Jeanie was concerned that everything would need to be redone, but Jay was surprised to find that the off-white leather sleeper J-lounge and loveseat looked showroom-new, as did the window treatments and the carpet. The unit also came with high-end amenities such as heated tile floors in the kitchen and bathroom, and heated captain and co-pilot chairs. He snapped a few photos and sent them to Jeanie, and she agreed that the Monaco was nearly perfect.
Jay negotiated a final price of $89,000 for the coach and then drove it home. That was 2014. The Monaco has run flawlessly ever since.
Which is not to say that the Tullises haven’t made some changes to their motorhome. The first expenditure was eight new tires, a must for safe travel. The original navigation system and back-up camera were no longer working, so Jay installed a new Kenwood Bluetooth hands-free system connected to the original Triptek computer system, and “Now, everything works wonderfully!” he says enthusiastically. While the previous owner had replaced the bedroom TV, the front TV was original. That was replaced with a new smart HDTV on a swinging mount, and with some cabinet modifications, this provided storage behind the TV and 5 additional inches of clearance above the dash. The in-motion dome antenna on the roof was also replaced with a new HD satellite dish.
The only other major technical change was the removal of the old monitoring system for the holding tanks, batteries and LP-gas. It did not work consistently or reliably, and after much research, Jay replaced it with a SeeLevel II tank-monitoring system.
The couple also made changes to the interior and the exterior that upgraded the motorhome’s appearance. First, the gold cabinet hardware was replaced throughout the coach with bronze. The bathroom walls were originally wallpapered, with the exception of a small Corian backsplash. These were tiled, as were the walls in the kitchen, giving the motorhome a more contemporary look.
Outside, the body paint on the sides and rear was still in excellent condition, but the front had a clear protective film that was cracked and fading. The Tullises had this removed and the front of the coach sanded and repainted. The match was perfect, making it impossible to tell that the work was ever done.
Jay put the total cost of their renovation at about $10,000, still bringing them in well under budget. They were thrilled with the end result, but like many purchasers of older pre-owned coaches, the Tullises were still concerned about what could go wrong. They signed up for an extended-service plan through Good Sam, which is designed to cover vehicles up to 18 years old with 80,000 or less miles on the odometer. (Note: to initially qualify for Good Sam Extended Service Plan coverage, the motorhome can be up to 15 years old. The Plan is renewable on an annual basis until the RV is 18 years old or has 150,000 total vehicle miles.)
“I think Monaco, especially in the early 2000s, built an awesome coach,” Jay said, but he noted that even the best motorhome can have problems as it ages, and the cost of the service plan is worth it for the added peace of mind.
With the renovations done and the business sold, the Tullises are planning a trip across the United States of up to a year, staying anywhere from a week to a month at stops along the way.
“We are going to enjoy everything we can about every place we go … time doesn’t matter,” said Jay.
That is every RV owner’s dream. The Tullises’ motorhome, 15 years young and still going strong, is the coach that will take them there. Fulfilling dreams, year after year — that is what makes the Monaco Executive a classic ride.